A survey on housing and homelessness commissioned by the United Way Perth-Huron’s Social Research and Planning Council underlines the overwhelming need for “more than just one thing” to fix the housing crisis in the community.
Most of the volunteer panel, comprising Huron-Perth residents with current or past involvement with systems such as welfare, court, child welfare, education, health care, immigration and the Indian Act or who have experienced discrimination based on age, gender, race, income, sexual orientation or disability, agreed there is a serious shortage of quality affordable housing and that more options are needed, specifically those geared towards lower income individuals.
“Housing is a basic human right and requirement for good health,” Social Research and Planning Council director of research Joelle Lamport-Lewis said. “Supportive housing is a highly effective strategy that combines affordable housing with intensive co-ordinated services to help people struggling with factors such as chronic physical and mental health issues maintain stable housing and receive appropriate health care. Through this report, we’re hoping to enhance the understanding of homelessness locally and the role supportive housing can play within a larger strategy to end chronic homelessness, particularly for people with the most complex mental health and addiction needs.”
Currently, an estimated 208 people across Perth-Huron are experiencing homelessness and are in need of support. Additionally, with the end of the current stay-at-home order on the horizon, and the possibility of evictions resuming, people in precarious housing situations are facing adverse health effects due to stress and anxiety. Stigma and a lack of understanding around supportive housing also continue to be issues in local communities.
Most surveyed said rent-geared-to-income housing is needed, followed by affordable rentals, especially one, two and three bedrooms. Surveyors revealed rent caps and rent subsidies were critical to keeping people in their homes, especially when landlords discriminate or drastically increase rents after renovations.
Many noted that jobs should pay a living wage or more to afford skyrocketing rents.
“There are not enough full-time, well-paying (with benefits) jobs in rural areas to support the high cost of market rents in rural areas,” one surveyor wrote.
Eighty-five per cent of those questioned said shelters, meal programs, transitional housing and supportive housing would be helpful to those currently experiencing homelessness.
Supportive housing generally refers to a combination of housing assistance and support services enabling people to live as independently as possible in their community.
Among the potential supports are ones focused on successful tenancy, social connections, health and wellness, life skills training, eviction prevention, crisis interventions and clinical support. Supportive housing is also viewed as essential to supporting the recovery and long-term housing stability for vulnerable people who face challenges around mental health and addictions.
“We want to encourage discussion and action around chronic homelessness and the housing-related challenges faced by vulnerable people,” Lamport-Lewis said. “There have been moves by government – nationally, provincially and locally – to undertake a transformational review of the homelessness system through specific initiatives, including updated housing and homelessness plans in both Perth and Huron counties. Hopefully, this report will add another important perspective as our communities work to develop a more responsive housing system and with the goal of ending chronic homelessness.”